Southern Baptist churches, based on our baptism reports, are less and less effective at sharing the gospel in such a way people receive it and become Christians. The reasons for this vary from church to church, but there are some common problems which span geography, culture, and ministry style. This is the fifth installment in a summer series highlighting some of those issues and offering some suggestions for change. Another problem limiting evangelistic effectiveness is theological murkiness leading to practical universalism.
The absence of doctrinal conviction among Christians is staggering. While most Christians give lip service to core beliefs related to salvation, when pressed, many waffle on the absolutes demanding conversion. The Bible plainly teaches, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This contradicts the common humanistic assumption people are essentially good. The Bible says, “It is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). This countermands the claim God kindly overlooks our rebellion against Him. Jesus claimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). If Jesus really meant this (and He did), then the popular idea that all religious belief, if sincerely held, assures eternal life is wrong—tragically wrong.
These are only a few examples of the clear doctrinal positions outlined in the Bible concerning salvation. Admittedly, these are hard sayings. They can’t be dismissed, however, just because they are difficult to stand up for. When challenged, you must hold these positions—gently but firmly. This can be painful when you are called a narrow-minded fundamentalist, religious legalist, or intolerant bigot for upholding biblical convictions. The stakes are too high, however, to compromise these key doctrines demanding the conversion of unbelievers.
When you forsake these biblical positions, adopting instead the alternate conclusions—people are essentially good, God takes everyone to heaven, and Jesus is only a friendly teacher—you become a Universalist. While you might chafe at that conclusion and reject the formal title, theological murkiness naturally leads to practical universalism. Jesus’ uniqueness and the narrowness of the way of salvation are voided. These erroneous positions undermine sharing the gospel and calling for conversion because there’s no gospel to share or salvation needed. Maintaining theological conviction isn’t just important for professors at seminaries, it’s essential for sustaining the urgency of your witness where you live.
Solution: If you are shaky on core Christian doctrines, do a personal study to reinforce your convictions. Read a Christian theology book written for everyday church members. Ask your pastor to organize a doctrinal study for your church or recommend curriculum for you to lead such a class. Have the courage to uphold your convictions, not compromising them in the face of cultural pressure to embrace postmodern relativism leading to Universalism.
This series is excerpted from my book, Unscripted: Sharing the Gospel as Life Happens